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Lorton: A league of their own

Isaac Lorton | Friday, November 11, 2011

In the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own,” women get the chance, due to World War II, to play the predominantly male sport of baseball. There are no special rules or major alterations to the game, just extremely athletic women taking the place of men. This movie has brought me to wonder why the women in the interhall program of Notre Dame are not allowed the opportunity to participate in full contact football, like the men. Why are they not allowed to wear pads and tackle? Why are they restricted to flags and “polite blocking”?

Most captains of women’s interhall teams have agreed with this in theory, but not in feasibility, and other captains are perfectly content with flag football.

The ones not in support of full contact women’s interhall football cite injuries, the lack of experience — especially in tackling — and overall satisfaction with flag football.

“I think the policy of flags only for women’s football is just fine,” Walsh senior captain Lindy Navarre said. “Anyone who has been to our games knows they are taken very seriously and are competitive as is. There is also plenty of room for injury as it stands, so I think full tackle would be a bad idea.”

Injuries could present a problem with tackle football because women have not grown up playing the game and properly knowing how to tackle. There would be a long period of learning and teaching. Also, as many people claim, women’s games are more aggressive then men’s games anyway.

“Well, as I broke my ribs and punctured my lung in the theoretically no contact flag football, I’m pretty okay with us not playing full pads, tackle football,” Howard senior captain Jenny Gassner said. “Girls don’t play that in high school, so we don’t have experience and would have to learn how to tackle.”

Other interhall players agree.

“I would stick with flag football because it allows us to move a little quicker and have to rely on some different strategies. We’re built differently than guys so I don’t mind not playing exactly the same sport as them,” Farley senior captain Analise Althoff said. “Besides, we still work really hard and get plenty of hits and bruises as it is. I think a ponytail looks fiercer when it’s not hidden by a helmet.”

There is an intensity in the women’s interhall games that you do not see during the men’s games. Women make the most of flag football and take ownership of the different skills required with smaller teams and a more spread-out offense.

But on the other side, many captains have expressed they would like the idea of playing tackle football but implementing it would be the problem.

“In theory, I think it would be awesome if girls could play full contact football here. I’m afraid that the amount of time we would have to take to learn how to tackle could take away from other aspects of the game that make us such a competitive league,” Pangborn senior captain Liz Pawlak said. “As far as full contact football being more intense and exciting, I think anyone who has watched our flag football games can see that all of the teams take the league very seriously and our games are already highly competitive.”

There is also the issue of fielding a team and having the support for tackle football.

“Some dorms can barely manage to field a flag football team of seven on the field at a time and that’s even with some girls playing both sides of the ball,” Welsh Family senior captain Charlotte Seasly said. “Additionally, the different positions required in full contact would require a much broader skillset than what is required of flag football. For girls, most of us didn’t even play flag football in high school, so learning a lot more rules and positions would present a challenge and a huge learning curve. So even though I would love to hit some girls, I don’t think it would be feasible in the RecSports environment we have at Notre Dame.”

The final opinion given, was that full contact would be great, but even rule changes to the flag football system would increase interest.

“My friend and I have actually been asking the same question for four years now. We’d love full tackle, and I suppose that has to come with full pads,” Breen-Phillips senior captain Maria Lynch said. “Honestly I’d settle for flag football with a few rule changes to allow us to be more aggressive. The rules of women’s flag football, or at least the way they’re implemented by the refs, are sort of sexist.”

These rule changes could possibly allow for more competitive games and more usefulness for line players, Lynch said. However, a few captains have cited the issue with sexism as the source of not playing tackle football.

“As to why the school doesn’t allow it, I’m sure it’s a stereotype — women aren’t as aggressive or tough as men,” Lyons freshman captain Christina Bramanti said. “Whether [the stereotype] is true or not, that’s why I think we play flag.”

There are many reasons for women playing flag football, and there are many also to play full contact football; however, no matter what the opinion, the women here at Notre Dame have created their own unique league of their own.